Someone should write a book . . .Posted: January 20, 2014
Another person who has added a lot to the discussion has been bitamoney, who suggested that someone, perhaps Traverse City resident and author Mardi Link, should write a book on Frank Shelden (aka Frank Torey), his associates in child porn and pedophile rings, and N. Fox Island in Grand Traverse Bay, MI. First-time author Link wrote When Evil Came to Good Hart: an up north Michigan cold case, (The University of Michigan Press, 2008). Dick Robison, his wife and four kids, were murdered while vacationing at their cottage in northern Michigan in the summer of 1968. Five of the family members were shot to death; the youngest, seven-year-old Susie, was killed with a claw hammer. Mrs. Robison was raped; if not, the scene was staged to make it appear that way.
The book came out right around the 40th anniversary of the Robison family murders. The Michigan State Police were involved in this investigation and there are some very interesting parallels to the OCCK case. I read the book soon after it was published, during the time my Dad and brother Chris were locked in a court battle with the Michigan State Police after the MSP steadfastly, irrationally, and I believe illegally, refused to respond to their FOIA requests and my family was forced to file a lawsuit against to obtain documents. Tens of thousands of dollars later, after the case had been in the system for months, but before an Oakland County judge was set to finally rule on the matter, the MSP provided a little over 4,000 pages of documents to my Dad. These were the documents the MSP felt were responsive to the request (without court review) and they were heavily redacted.
After I read Link’s book (before the court had ruled), I sent an email to my family contrasting how the MSP dealt with author Mardi Link and how the MSP were fucking us over. Who knew that the Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper would later make the MSP look like reasonable players? (Harold Love, you should be grateful for that.) Maybe Mardi Link should write the book on N. Fox—the MSP certainly bent over backwards to help her write a book on another notorious Michigan cold case; maybe they will oblige her on this subject.
What follows is mostly from the email I sent my family after I read Link’s book–during the time my Dad was paying legal fees to obtain what was so easily granted to Ms. Link. This is going to be a long post; I apologize in advance. There are some very interesting parallels to the OCCK case.
The Robisons had been dead for over a month when they were discovered. The only physical evidence was one bloody shoe print, the bloody hammer (picked up by a deputy using a paper towel, thus obscuring the fingerprints), and shell casings (two weapons were used; the victims were apparently “finished off” with a final bullet to the head from a second gun).
Dick Robison’s business partner, Joseph Scolaro, of Birmingham, MI, was an obvious suspect. Not only was he embezzling from the business, he had owned two weapons—both of the types used on the family. The actual guns were never found, but shell casings identical to those found at the murder scene were found on Scolaro’s father-in-law’s property where there was a shooting range.
Other suspects were Monnie Bliss, the builder of many of the cabins in the Good Hart area, including the Robison’s, and caretaker of the Robison’s property. John Norman Collins, convicted of one of the U of M coed murders and suspected serial killer of women, has also long been discussed as a suspect. He was apparently in the same fraternity at Eastern Michigan University as the oldest Robison son, and Collins may have even visited the cabin as a guest at some point.
Link explains in a web article that she had always been fascinated by the Robison case, being the same age as youngest victim Susie in the summer of 1968.
The self-proclaimed Court TV addict pitched the project to an editor through a blind email. ‘She responded [and] voila, I had a book contract,’ Link said. She filed Freedom of Information Act requests, obtained files from Emmet County and the Michigan State Police and interviewed Good Hart locals. The publisher’s approval came in March in 2007 and by November, Link turned in the book. . . . ‘I was trying to tell, from various angles, what really happened,’ she said. ‘The main character of the book is really the investigation.
Link’s obvious conclusion that Scolaro was either the killer or the person who hired the killer(s) is one long-held by the MSP detectives who worked on this case, as well as the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office. In 2002 it was announced that three pubic hairs found on Shirley Robison’s body would be retested and her clothing would be reexamined for DNA evidence. Unfortunately, the evidence turned out to be too degraded. This result was made public. Yeah, public.
Here’s the deal. THIS CASE, LIKE THE OCCK CASE, IS STILL CONSIDERED “OPEN.” Interesting that such a comprehensive book is written about a case that is still open. But it turns out that Link had quite a bit of help and a lot of file access.
First, in her acknowledgments, Link explains “Sheriff Pete Wallin and Detective J. L. Sumpter of the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office graciously opened up their exhaustive records on the case and provided me with their own personal observations and wisdom, which was invaluable.” Quite the contrast to the OCCK case.
The Oakland County Sheriff and every Oakland County police department have, in my opinion, ultimately treated all of the OCCK victim’s families like shit. Oh yeah, back in the day the police briefly held our hands (but note that the prosecutor’s office never, ever, made any contact with my parents). But way down the road, when stuff started unraveling and bubbling to the surface, they abandoned us and threw any LE who tried to do the right thing (present-day and retired) right under the bus. You must have thought we were idiots.
In her acknowledgments, Link continues: “Thank you, Shannon Akans and Linda Ortiz of the Michigan State Police, for access to that agency’s well-organized, behemoth file on the case. I am proud to be a citizen of a state that has the Michigan State Police looking out for our welfare.” Ms. Link, I would love for you to compare that well-organized, behemoth file to the massive, pathetic amalgamation of documents that constitutes the OCCK case “file.” Yes, you just might be the perfect person to write this book.
The photographs in Link’s book are “courtesy of the Michigan State Police.” Really? It took multiple FOIA requests for family members of Tim and Kris to get photographs Kris’ sister SAW WITH HER OWN EYES WHEN SHE MET WITH DETECTIVE GARRY GRAY in October 2007 [correction, 2009]. The MSP later responded that such photos “did not exist.” Turns out they did. They tried supplying “redacted photos” (unheard of) and later, after letters and litigation, provided the actual photos.
“A Note to Readers” in Ms. Link’s book explains that: “This is a true story. It was written nearly forty years after the murder of the Robison family, and any of the people you will meet in these pages were deceased long before I began writing about them. Meticulous records of the case were kept by both the Michigan State Police and the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office, including written interviews of friends, family members, business associates, suspects and others in the midst, and on the fringes of, the investigation.” This included a 300-page report that was the “result of eighteen months of meticulous police work by detectives who had investigated the Robison case.” This report contained pertinent details forged into a single narrative.
Link describes the report:
Here together for the first time was all of the background research, all of the interviews, the polygraph test results, the lab and autopsy results, and of course those crucial ballistics determinations. The three-hundred-page report was physically heavy, but also loaded down with human expectations. So precious was their package that to Detectives Stearns and Flis [MSP], who drove north in order to hand-deliver their report safely into the care of prosecutor Donald G. Noggle, it must have felt like they were handing over pages plated with 14-carat gold.
Prosecutor Noggle later determined there was not enough evidence to file charges against Scolaro. State Attorney General Frank Kelley backed up Noggle’s decision.
Here’s what I said to my family after reading this book: Now, if Link can read these meticulous records, stellar written interviews and the gold-plated 300-page report in the still-open Robison murder investigation, why the fuck can’t we look at the records and whatever else they have in the still-open OCCK case?
Let me point out that I’m sure Link had to pay for copying/redacting costs for the many documents she obtained. But she sure as hell didn’t have to take the MSP to court and pay attorney fees to get the privilege of paying $11,000-plus, as my Dad did, just to have some MSP rep with a black magic marker redact the pages they alone decided we were entitled to (without court review—Oakland County judges are cut from the same cloth), and copy them. Like most redaction jobs, the magic marker is used heavily, like a crayon used by a preschooler, with the occasional gaffe where someone’s full name is left untouched (thank you, Universe). That’s 11K PLUS attorney fees, which were well-worth it to get an understanding of what these agencies did and did not do. The truth sometimes hurts, but it’s better than a bunch of lies.
Continuing with the contrast between the Robison case and the OCCK case and Ms. Link’s book—In 1973, the MSP and the Emmet County Sheriff went to the then Oakland County Prosecutor, L. Brooks Patterson (OCP at the time of the OCCK murders in 1976 and 1977), to find a way to sidestep the Emett County prosecutor. The rumor was that OC was going to issue an arrest warrant for Joseph Scolaro for conspiracy to commit murder. When Scolaro caught wind of this, he offed himself in May 1973.
As previously mentioned, in 2002, Emmet Co. Sherriff Wallin asked the MSP to conduct DNA testing in the Robison case. Catch this:
“Before the lab work was started, money, and a lot of it, happened to become available for tests on old DNA evidence. In March 2003, the Forensic Science Division received a $1.4 million federal grant to conduct DNA testing on cold cases. The grant allowed the Grayling laboratory to select 175 cases from around the state in which there were ‘existing biological samples’ and to test them. The idea behind the grant was that these biological samples would be entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System), the national crime-fighting DNA database, and checked against existing records. Adding 175 new cases would also expand the database itself.”
From Link’s book (I read it on a Kindle and don’t have a page reference for you). Now I can pretty much goddamn guarantee you that the OCCK case—a case which has to qualify as one of the most notorious unsolved cold cases in the entire country—was not on this list of 175. The DNA evidence in the OCCK case was fucking lost, misfiled, used in MSP post training exercises—it wasn’t used to enhance any database or to try to solve the case. Human hairs on my brother’s body were recently found after a decade’s-long absence. Where were they? Filed for decades under “animal hairs.” Nice work, guys. Let it sit there, untested, until it degrades into nothing. No gold-plated, 14-carat, 300-page, intensive single narrative in the MSP files on this case, like in the Robison case. Somebody outside the MSP has long been and continues to work on such a narrative, but the MSP and Oakland County aren’t doing anything to help and are probably thwarting the effort.
To those of you who can’t understand why some of us are still asking questions about the kidnapping, captivity, torture, rape, murder and dumping like garbage of four (and probably more) children in Oakland County during the late 1970’s, let me close with parallels in the Robison case.
Emmet County Detective J. L. Sumpter was interviewed about the Robison case in 2007. He said: “There is just something about this case. Once you know a little bit about it, you want to know more. No, you just don’t want to know more, you have to know more. It’s like it’s contagious, and what you catch from it is obsession.”
Link observed that part of her obsession was the fact that the crime involved the devastation of an entire family. In the OCCK cases, we have child victims held captive for days (and Kristine for weeks) before being murdered. I hate to say it, but the Robisons were all probably dead within minutes. There is just no comparison to what to these kids went through for days and weeks (in Kris’ case) before being murdered. Yet, we are to believe that it is best to “leave it be,” even though people interviewed in Link’s book describe thinking about the Robison murders “to this day.”
Many suspect Joseph Scolaro was responsible for the Robison murders. It is no secret that he took, and failed, three polygraph tests. He committed suicide, as OCCK suspect Chris Busch allegedly did. Nobody has held back about their speculation about Scolaro, or other suspects in the Robison case for that matter, and I mean by name, rank and serial number. Not only has much been revealed in the press and in Link’s book about Scolaro and other possible suspects, but also about victim Richard Robison. But not a word can be uttered in the OCCK case about Chris Busch or any other suspect above the income-level of a David Norberg or a Ted Lamborgine.
Residents of Good Hart have said things like “’I don’t think you can tie it up into a nice package and put a ribbon on it,’ says a former neighbor, pointing out that the case remains officially unresolved. ‘You have to keep an open mind.’” http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/June-2008/A-Web-of-Intrigue/index.php?cparticle=4&siarticle=3#artanc. So, I guess the take away is that some cases are never “solved,” but at least in the Robison case people got to see what the cops and prosecutors did and didn’t do in the case.
Here’s how I viewed Link’s book when I read it a few years ago. Someone who was a seven-year-old kid driving to northern Michigan with her family in 1968 and hears a radio report of another seven-year-old and her family members up north is allowed to ask “who?” and my family can’t ask about shit about the murder of their son and brother? I was nine when the Robison murders occurred. I remember having some understanding of what it would mean to find a family after they had been dead for a month. How was I to know that nine years later my youngest brother would be kidnapped, held captive for six days and then dumped on a roadside in southern Michigan? Why was Mardi Link, an author with no connection to any of the victims in the Robison case, provided with invaluable observations and wisdom from law enforcement, when the family members of the OCCK victims have been treated shamefully? Both cases are open/unsolved. Mardi Link must have been ecstatic over being handed all of the information to author her first book. Unlike all the authors salivating over cases like this, all we wanted were some answers–or some kind of explanation of how things dead-ended. We didn’t want to write a goddamn book. The answers could have been given privately and verbally, but the MSP and the OCP and every other OC LE agency stuttered away and wouldn’t look us in the face. You tell me what that means.